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Are 'Forms' intelligent?

This raises the general question as to whether all forms are, as it were, types of intelligence?  This is possible, if what is meant by intelligence at its simplest level is that which is capable of organizing, or ordering something of itself.

The dictionary adverts to a sense of the verb to organize that brings out the basic connection, as it were, between organization and matter: 'to make organic, to make into living tissue'774.  This has two further elements: firstly, to organize is a verb: it is an activity; indeed one could say that to organize is, in this sense, a principle of activity.  But if a thing is not active itself how can it be a source of activity?  For if a flame is not burning, it is neither a flame nor can it light other things.  Therefore this principle of activity is both active itself and, being active itself, it is a source of activity.  Secondly, activity is one of the fundamental ingredients of life: indeed life could be defined at its simplest level as that which moves775.  For although we frequently make the distinction between what moves and does not move, between the life of things that move and are therefore called animals, or animated, and the stuff of inert matter or what is called inanimate, we now understand matter to be in constant motion.  Therefore it is now possible to make the generalization that there is a principle, called life, the possession of which is to be active and, therefore, to be a source of activity.

It was precisely on whether or not a thing can be active and a source of activity that St. Thomas Aquinas argues the following objection: if the basic principle of things was itself active, then we would be ceaslessly active.776  But for modern physics matter is constantly in motion; and while it is not the same thing, Cardinal Newman argued something like it: to live is to change and so to become perfect is to change often.  Therefore there is a sense in which to be ceaselessly active is what it is to be.  In other words, to be is to be alive.  Nevertheless there may be a sense in which St. Thomas is distinguishing the soul as the origin of voluntary movement, which would not be voluntary if the soul could not but express itself in movements of this kind.  Therefore he refers to the soul's substance and to its potential: to what it is and to what it can become through what it does; the soul determines the body to be a human being, and the soul is the source of the potential activities of the human being777.

However, and this is perhaps a further part to the answer to the aforementioned objection, activity occurs at different levels and is ordered in such a way that a lower level of activity facilitates a higher level.  Thus the activity of a particle leads to, indeed constitutes, as it were, the order of complexity called the atom - because it is the same activity of a particle which is both internal to itself and externally interactive, such that it is the same principle which both makes it what it is in itself and forms its relationships to other things.  Therefore, at the level of the particle it makes sense to think of it as constantly in motion because it's principle of activity is itself active; however, in the order that arises out of this initial activity, that is, in proportion, almost, as it is found in relationships to other things, so stability is realized and thus, while the principle of life itself is ceaslessly active, not every level of life is equally so.

If this were not so then there would be no relation between what a thing is, what a thing does and anything else.  Therefore it is precisely this relation of activity to being that both reveals and confirms the existence of a principle underlying all things.  It is this internally and interactively ordering principle that regulates all things that is itself the first law of life778, because it is itself the the most general characteristic of all life, namely to exist is to be in motion.

But just as what cannot be in motion cannot be in motion without going somewhere, so what exists is ordered to an end.  The end to which all things are ordered is twofold: the internal unity of all that exists779; and, secondly, the end to which the whole is ordered, namely God.  For just as an arrow cannot shoot itself, nor make itself, so neither can a thing order its own internal parts nor determine the end to which it is directed.  Therefore, while I have argued that life is intelligent to the degree that its existence is inherently ordered, and this order is evident, as it were, at the different levels of complexification780, such that the molecule is not the particle but is necessarily ordered to it, so this intelligence is not the intelligence of the designer, but the naturally occurring intelligent activity that testifies to the existence of the Intelligent Designer781.

With respect, however, to the particular question of this section, it would seem that forms of matter are generally analogous to intelligence in that they do express an organization of matter which is comparable to the organizing of things which expresses the person's intelligence, rooted as it is in the soul and expressed as it is through the vehicle of the body.

774 The Oxford Paperback Dictionary, compiled by Joyce M. Hawkins, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, third edition, 1988), page 571.  Cf. also organ etc, page 570.  Abbrev. OPD.    Back
775 Cf, ST, Pt I, Qu 75, art 1, page 108.    Back
776 ST, Pt I, Qu 77, art 1, page 118.    Back
777 Ibid.    Back
778 Cf. B. F. Brown, Natural law, page 251 of Vol III, NCE.    Back
779 Cf. J. H. Wright, Universe, Order of, page 457 of Vol. XIV, NCE.    Back
780 This idea is indebted to Teilhard de Chardin, although I hold it in a sense that does not necessarily imply evolution.    Back
781 SuTh, Pt 1, Qu 2, art. 3, pages 13-14.    Back

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